Dun Laoghaire harbour may have new ferry routes opening up after Stena Line announced it would pull the plug on its service into the harbour town.
A number of ferry operators have approached the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company with the idea of opening up new links to Britain and France.
The new connections include Liverpool and Wales, according to sources.
Earlier this month, Stena Line announced it would no longer run a service from the south Dublin harbour to Holyhead from April.
The company is investigating using Dublin Port as its main port of call, where it already has an existing ferry service.
“With two services operating approximately 10 miles apart we needed to make a decision in relation to what operation best serves the needs of our customers now and in the years ahead, and that operation is Dublin Port,” said Ian Davies, Stena Line’s route manager for Irish Sea South at the time.
The Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company then began looking for another ferry operator to service the popular route.
The Herald understands that several options have come forward in the last two weeks and include a possible route to Ros-coff in France, one to Pembroke in south Wales, one to Liverpool and one to Holyhead.
Gerry Dunne, CEO of the harbour company, would not be drawn on specific routes but did say there had been a large amount of interest in the future use of Dun Laoghaire harbour.
“There have been seven enquiries through the e-tender process,” Mr Dunne told the Herald.
“We expect a significant percentage of these to convert to detailed proposals by the e-tenders deadline.”
While he would not comment on the possible new routes, he did say that Holyhead may not be the only option.
“The e-tender was specifically for a new ferry company to come in and operate that Holyhead route but we won’t rule out other options,” said Mr Dunne. The deadline for proposals in 5pm on February 27.
Whatever proposal is chosen, the hope is that it will be begin operation at the start of May next year.
The voyage to Liverpool would take approximately seven hours as would the route to Pembroke, while Holyhead is only two hours.
“I find it very encouraging that there are currently seven expressions of interest in Dun Laoghaire Harbour,” said Fianna Fail councillor Cormac Devlin.
“As far as I understand it, these could offer different connections between Dun Laoghaire and the UK or even potentially farther afield.
“This is a very positive and very welcome piece of news for Dun Laoghaire.”
Mr Devlin added that nine cruise liners are due to dock in the harbour this year and this will increase footfall and trade for local retailers.
Stena Line said its decision to pull out of the south county Dublin harbour was due to the reduction in passengers with cars following the withdrawal of duty free.
Passenger numbers dropped from 1.7 million at the peak in 1998 to 200,000 travelling through Dun Laoghaire last year.
The service was reduced to a seasonal operation five years ago.